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SagadaOctober 18-21, 2005 Tuesday


This is my 4th visit. Sagada is a place I'll keep coming back to. It seems perfect on the outside - nature at its best, cheap food and accomodation, excellent mountain tea and arabica coffee, and an animated cache of residents.

My Host
I had a pre-arranged meeting to hook-up with 2 friends from UP, Mimsy and Tif. Our host was husband-and-wife-painter, Brian and Ces with their bubbly son, River. They've lived in Sagada for 3 years before moving into other parts of the country to pursue their art. Moreover, Ces loves to cook and she cooks well. The dishes she whipped up for us were excellent. Brian is perhaps the best draftsman I've met. I can give up my day job if I can draw half as good as him. Ooops...I don't have a day job. He has a quick witted humor and quite a riot when on a roll. They have just moved back to Sagada, to the ex-mayor's lovely and spacious house. It has a dap-ay, a duck pen and a cozy fireplace.

One thing I didn't discover in my last visit was a pottery. Archie Stapleton, an American whose parents were the last Episcopalian missionaries in Sagada, grew up in the village but later lived in the US where he established himself as an accomplished potter. He later returned to Sagada to found the ceramic center. His most studious protegee, Sigrid, took over when Archie left. The center has not only reintroduced ceramics to the Cordillera people, but likewise created an alternative income generating vehicle for the community.

Sumaging Cave
Sumaging Cave is always fascinating notwithstanding it's my third visit. Depending on the guide, new routes could be meandered to, making it almost a totally new experience. Bouldering above the natural pool in your birthday suit is a must! A little bit of fitness is handy - some sections could only be crossed by hanging on to ropes. If the big pool is too much, swimming in the ice-cold water of the shallow pools is invigorating. With a good number of visitors, there would be an occasional traffic. It's interesting to note how clean the incoming cavers are, while the outgoing are wet and smelling of bat dung. The tranquility of the cave interior was perfect for a bit of meditation. Fossil findings indicate that the cave, 5000 ft. above sea level, was once under the sea. An interesting activity for the next visit would be the 5 hour cave connection between Lumiang Cave and Sumaging Cave.

Cast of Characters

This dude takes the cake. I immensely enjoyed meeting him during my visit in May. He hasn't lost a bit of his amusing sarcasm. I'm glad he's still around. It would be hard to imagine Sagada without this character.

Let me backtrack a bit. Back in the day, he was a thriving professional chef in France. He later decided to pursue his passion without the baggage - ride his mountain bike for as long as he wants, wherever it takes him. Another passion was to cook without the 14 hour/day indentured slavery. Solution? He quit his job and rode this bike. We're not talking about a ride to the corner store here. This dude traveled 55,000 kilometers in 8 years, cooking in 27 countries he passed along the way. When he reached Sagada, he found home. He's been there 5 years now, riding the trails and cooking for the local inns. He offered to teach the locals but no takers.

When I learned he'd be cooking an entire day, I asked if I can watch and ask questions - no problem. I was there 7 am sharp as instructed. Here was my chance to learn from a master. Who else can claim to have cooked professionally for 25 years in 27 countries on a mountain bike? I spent the day watching him bake pastries and smoke wild pig. I learned a lot in that single day. This guy is the genuine article when it comes to food. He knew it inside-out and shared what he knew - tips, trade secrets, etc. He even allowed me to help myself to his recipe book. According to him, it might take someone 3 years of apprenticeship with him to be a good chef (about 2000 mistakes in total, give or take a few).

His guy is so free I'm envious. What I crave for, he already possess. He has his health, a mountain bike, a roof over his head and the warmth of a community that adopted him as their own - that's his bottom line. More importantly, he goes where he wants to go, does what he wants to do and be what he wants to be. He said, "...the less you need, the free-er you become". I couldn't agree more.

I didn't really have a long chat with her except for the brief pleasantries of Hi and Goodbye. What gets me though is what other people say about her. Like Archie before her, she extends pottery workshops to whoever is interested. Always there when needed, she would wake up in the middle of the night armed with a flashlight to help anyone who might have gotten lost in the forest. Through her friendship, a very disillusioned person within the community saw the glass as half full now, instead of half empty. Another claimed that if he had unlimited resources, he would buy a country for her to rule. The local guides put her in high regard, they asked her to head the association.

All these blow me away. She's probably one of the characters described in the book '7 Habits of Effective People' who gravitate as nexus to a whose wise counsel is seeked by many. Perhaps, when I return to Sagada this summer, I'll have the opportunity to talk more at length with her. I could imagine getting a sense her positive aura just by being in such presence.

Ending Thoughts
Sagada presents a different facet of itself with every visit. Before I can immerse myself to it, I have to leave, and I'm left hanging. What struck me different this time was the opportunities offered on the table - learning culinary skills from Aklay and learning pottery from Sigrid. In addition to that, there are a few personalities that intrigue me. I'd like to be able to spend time with them and learn again from their insights and life lessons. Who knows what other opportunitites are presented when I pursue what's on the horizon for now. The next "free time" I'll have is summer break. I'll certainly be back again and pick up where I left off.

--- TheLoneRider

Caving Blogs by TheLoneRider

  1. Canghaling Cave November 14, 2023
  2. The Return to Hinagdanan Cave Nov 5, 2017
  3. Exploring Hinagdanan Cave Oct 24, 2017
  4. Exploring Guimba and Sog-ong Caves of Loboc Oct 22, 2017
  5. Exploring Combento Cave Pool June 29, 2017
  6. Visiting Cabagnow Cave Pool of Anda Jun 28, 2017
  7. Exploring Bukilat Cave, Camotes Islands Feb 28, 2017
  8. Exploring Timubo Cave of Camotes Islands Feb 9, 2017
  9. Exploring Holy Crystal Cave of Camotes Islands Feb 9, 2017
  10. Exploring Bakwitan Cave of Gigantes Island Dec 30, 2016
  11. Visting Pangihan Cave of Malay Dec 14, 2016
  12. Exploring Maanghit Cave in Libertad Dec 9, 2016
  13. Visiting Ati Cave in Libertad Dec 9, 2016
  14. Visiting the Elephant Cave (Goa Gajah) July 9, 2016
  15. Visiting the Nam Lot and the Pha Khong Caves of Phan District May 18, 2016
  16. Visiting Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur Feb 18, 2015
  17. Exploring Silop Cave of Surigao City Jun 22, 2013
  18. Exploring Bakwitan Cave of Tuburan, Surigao del Sur May 25, 2013
  19. Exploring Campamento Cave of Lanuza, Surigao del Sur May 17, 2013
  20. Exploring Dayao Cave of Tandag, Surigao del Sur May 12, 2013
  21. Exploring Sumalsag Cave of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon Apr 21, 2013
  22. The Fabulous People of Roxas City (Igang Cave) Nov 25-27, 2012
  23. Exploring the Cantabon Cave of Siquijor Feb 23, 2012
  24. Marinduque with UPM's Rumble Reggae (Sawa Cave) May 29 - June 1, 2009
  25. Backpacking Cagayan de Oro (Macahambus Cave) Mar 7-9, 2009
  26. Sagada Cave Connection - Lumiang Cave to Sumaging Cave September 12, 2008
  27. Mountaineering with Lakay Kalikasan Mountaineers (Kalinawan Cave) November 25, 2007
  28. Sabang, Palawan (Underground River) November 14-21, 2007
  29. Sagada (Sumaging Cave) October 18, 2005
  30. The Cordillera - Day 5: Sagada (Sumaging Cave) May 3, 2005
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